As anyone who's read this site in the last two months can't fail to have noticed, Sendo has gone into administration, so won't be releasing the X2 or any other handset. However, that didn't stop us from begging our friends and sources for any information they had about review models of the X2. We've now got some of that information, so read on to find out all that is good, bad and ugly about the now extinct Sendo X2.
Web browsing is becoming an increasingly more important function on a smartphone, and a number of companies have stepped up to address the chalenge of getting fully blown websites to work on the limited screen space available on most phones. One of these companies is Access Systems, with their excellent Netfront product.
How do you get a website, which has been designed to work on a screen resolution at least 975 pixels wide, to fit on a device with a screen resolution of only 176 pixels wide? This has been the challenge facing web browser companies since the outset of smartphones and "proper" internet access. Opera was the first company to tackle the problem, with their very competent mobile browser, featureing their "Small Screen Rendering" technology. (Opera 6.1 ships with Sendo smartphones)
While Opera is a very competent browser, there's a couple of areas it can't cope with very well, one of these being CSS support. As CSS becomes an ever increasing part of most websites, it is important that your browser of choice is able to understand, translate and render even complex CSS markup. (CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets, and is the primary technology now used to define *how* a website should be displayed)
NetFront have taken a very refreshing approach to make their mobile web browser display pages properly - rather than trying to cut out content and markup elements (such as CSS), NetFront reads and understans all these elements. Explaining exactly how NetFront achieves this is beyond the scope of this review, suffice to say their rendering technology is called "Rapid-Render" and an excellent description of how it works is available on their website.
After all that, you're probably wondering how NetFront works on the Sendo X smartphone. Well, the first thing to note is that the latest versions of NetFront support Series 60 version 2 only, however, NetFront recognise that a lot of people are still using phones based on Series 60 version 1.2 and so still provide a link to version 3.1 of their browser, which is fully compatible with Series 60 version 1.2, and therefore with the Sendo X. It's also nice to see a 45 day trial period on the fully functioning demo version - much better than the measly 5 days provided with some Series 60 applications.
In use, it's hard to fault NetFront - it's rendering speed is way ahead of Opera, especially when it comes to loading large pages. During testing (for which we naturally used the Sendo Smartphones website), NetFront proved to be much qiucker than Opera, with a much better understanding of the CSS used on the site. (Opera in particular, made a mess of the main menu)
Navigation is also simpler than Opera, especially when viewing pages in "No wrapping" mode - NetFront's name for not altering a site's layout. Selection is made easily - the scroll keys not only move around a site, but also automatically select whichever item is "in focus". This is much simpler and quicker to use than Opera's method, which involves pressing the option key a few times.
When viewing in Smart-Fit mode, the up and down navigation keys naigate around a site, while the left and right keys select content.
Picture handling is also very good in NetFront. As can be seen by these screenshots, all CSS and images of the Sendo Smartphones header and menu work fine, but how would the program cope with a fully fledged picture - remarkable well as it happens. The picture picked (see right) displayed perfectly in every rendering mode selected.
In summary, NetFront is a great product which works incredibly well, both on the Sendo X and at doing it's job - namely viewing and rendering web pages.
Overall Rating: 90%
UPDATED: The latest X firmware turns the X into an X 1/2, or sort of an X2. There are a lot of improved, changed and new features in this latest firmware.. Read on to see what's new or changed.
First of all, the changed features:
GPRS: The GPRS bug in the previous releases of this firmware has now been fixed.
Camera: The night mode is gone. The camera's response to lighting levels overall has been vastly improved.
Camcorder: Much faster frame rates are attainable.
MP3 player: Less pauses when switching between applications.
Messgaing: The SMS counter bug is *finally* fixed.
Contacts: The annoying "Copy SIM Contacts" message has gone.
Keylock: The annoying double press problem has been fixed when unlocking the keys.
Network: Network acquisition has been sped up quite a bit.
RAM: The phone now has over 5MB of RAM free on startup, a gaining of over 1MB on most phones.
RealPlayer: Users report that frame rates on video play back have increased tremendously.
Backup / Restore: Backups and restores now seem to happen faster. MP3 playlista are now restored (they never used to be) as are call logs!
New features, not previously seen on the Sendo X:
Speed Dial: You can now set applications as well as phone numbers as Speed Dial allocations.
Now!: Many new features, including the ability to toggle on or off the section headers. To do this, press and hold the left or right side key (the silver ones) - the one you need is the "Edit" key (i.e. not the one which activates VoiceSignal)
Easy Start: A very nice new way to automatically setup the MMS, WAP, GPRS and other settings for your phone. Much easier than even the Sendo Online Configurator.
Every once in a while, a reviewer will come across an app that performs well and shines even though you have no idea when you'll next get an opportunity to test it to its limits or in the capacity for which it was designed. Worldmate from Mobimate is one such app.
Not really one program performing one individual task but a collection of four "mini-apps" that are aimed at frequent travellers. The first is a collection of time displays, each giving the exact time wherever you currently are and in four other cities of your choice. The display is crisp and easy to read and puts your on-board system clock to shame. Page 2 displays a five day forecast of the weather for your chosen city and before we have any complaints along the lines of "But I don't live anywhere near London" several major UK cities such as Edingburgh and Cardiff (amongst others) are covered as well. So if you want to find out if its raining on Sendo HQ, just select " Birmingham" from the list. The weather is displayed as an icon with a brief sentence next to it with more detailed info, together with the temperature in Farenheit and Celsius. To get the latest weather info, the phone needs to make a GPRS connection - a relatively small download later and you have a new 5-day forecast.. The GPRS connection can be set to update automatically on a daily basis but I prefer to do it manually as it saves on the data call costs. A reminder at the bottom of the page tells you when it was last updated.
The next is a worldmap that tracks current day and night zones with the map being quite well detailed, despite it's size. A white crosshair marks your selected city (these can be cycled through in alphabetical order by pushing up and down on the joypad or by selecting Change city in the Options menu). Below the map is a brief summary of some of the info on other pages - a small icon displaying the weather, a breif readout of the temperature (you can choose either Celsius or Farenheit from the Options menu) and the current time. It's worth mentioning at this point that the weather display only works if you have updated the Weather page (see above). The final page is a currency converter, which allows you to select the different currencies to convert between. This can be done under "Change currency" in the options menu. Simply enter the amount in whatever currency you choose and the converter gives you an up to the day accurate conversion by acquiring the latest exchange rates via GPRS - this can also be set to update either automatically or at the user's request.
Even though I really don't travel much (or rather as much as I would like to) I still find Worldmate has quite a lot to offer me. The GPRS connection costs can mount up quite quickly but if you update manually and cautiously, Worldmate is good value for money. The fact that it works flawlessly on the Sendo also counts strongly in it's favour.NB: the latest version is for v2 Series 60 phones, although Mobimate have said that they will arrange a link to the old version for Sendo users. Provided they keep their promise, I have no hesitation in recommending Worldmate for an SSC Gold Award.
Overall score: 89%
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